Posted 2nd Apr 2015
We sat down with Georgie Newbery, author of The Flower Farmer's Year to find out about her inspirations for the book and her top tips for growing your own cut flowers at home
What first attracted to you to growing your own flowers?
I had a vegetable garden, but found myself without really thinking about it, growing more and more flowers. We were already selling our sweet pea surplus at the gate when I was sent a bouquet of flowers through the post by a neighbour. Inspired, I cut a bouquet from my garden and sent it to a friend through the post. My husband always wanted Common Farm to be a real wildlife sanctuary. He always says, ‘Look after the invertebrates and the rest of the food chain will look after itself.’ What better way to feed the invertebrates than to start a flower farm full of nectar? And so Common Farm Flowers was born.
You are an artisan florist and flower farmer, what does that mean to you?
For me artisan floristry means we have the same ethics as any artisan business: our flowers are grown by us or locally, and are not imported: our bouquets are handmade not mass produced. We don’t have rows of people putting lots of identical bouquets together to a strict system of so many stems of this or so many of that. There are three of us working round a table, the same three who cut the flowers, who know the material we’re working with incredibly well, and are free to make each bouquet supplied by us unique.
Where did your inspiration for your book come from?
I teach flower farming workshops here at Common Farm several times a year, and these are workshops which always sell out. I think there’s an enormous interest in growing cut flowers, whether for pleasure or for profit. I’m conscious that there are a great many people who want to move to the country and ‘live the dream,’ or people who perhaps already have a sizeable garden, or access to a bit of land, which they really want to make more productive. Plus I have words rolling round my head all the time so I thought I may as well get some of them down on paper and see if other people could make use of them.
What was your biggest challenge when putting pen to paper?
Time. I am already very time poor and writing the book nearly finished me off. I ended up getting up at five in the morning for months in order to get the work done. And my wonderful editor, Alethea Doran, was a proper stickler for getting things right so there was a lot of going back over ground time and again to get the work absolutely right, correct and clear. But I’m grateful for her pushing me. Without her and Jayne, who designed it, the whole book would have been a great big mess. Relying upon their help again, I’ve nearly finished my next book called Grow Your Own Wedding Flowers. Which has almost finished me off again.
Was there anything you wished you'd included but wasn't able to?
I think the whole subject of people starting their own businesses from home, the kitchen table business movement, if you like, is one I’d like to explore further. With the internet (despite appalling rural broadband speeds) one can start any kind of business one likes from home. Which makes it possible for lots of people to do something creative and interesting and sell it direct to their end customer, when perhaps, in the past, it would have been difficult for people to find a market for their homemade/grown product. This has to be great for rural economies where sometimes jobs are hard to come by, or where people sometimes find they have to spend a lot of money on commuting in order to work for somebody else.
Could you give us your top tips for anyone looking to create their own cut flowers?
1. Watch out for the wind: plant your cut flower patch protected from wind. Wind will lash, break and bruise your flowers. Especially if you’re planning to sell some, wind can ruin your crop.
2. Grow what you love, not what you think you ought to grow. I don’t grow Cleome because I don’t like the thorns or its smell – some people love it.
3. Successional sowing is the key to a long and productive season: don’t expect a crop of sweet peas you plant in September one year to flower from late spring the next to still be producing a prolific crop the next October. We plant four crops of sweet peas to take us through a long season.
4. If growing flowers for cutting remember to cut them in the cool of the day, early in the morning, or after the sun has lost its heat in the evening. Cut with clean scissors into clean buckets of fresh water and allow the flowers to have 12 hours ‘conditioning’ after being cut before using them in floristry.
5. Feed your ground: healthy ground will feed your plants and make a great crop.
Good luck and happy growing!
The Flower Farmer's Year by Georgie Newbery, published by Green Books, is available to buy from all good book shops, RRP £19.99.
LandLove readers can save 30% off The Flower Farmer's Year with free p&p (UK mainland). To redeem simply visit www.greenbooks.co.uk, quoting 'LANDLOVE2015' at the checkout. Offer expires 30th June 2015.
By Lauren Morton